Today is my birthday and our last day of biking in Puglia. We left our home for the last two nights, Masseria Il Frontoio in Ostuni and headed north toward Fasano, enroute to Polignano a Mare. Our ride for the day was a mix of old agricultural roads through olive and nut tree orchards, vineyards and roads along the sea. The scenery that unfolded during the day was breathtaking: ancient olive groves, ancient ruins, small seaside towns preparing for the upcoming Easter holiday and summer season, and fields planted with vegetables for as far as the eye can see. This area is the Salinas Valley of Italy. Produce is grown virtually year round, the fields constantly in some stage of the growing season.
This was definitely my favorite day of our Puglia bike adventure. The scenery was incredible, the weather was warmer, and there was a lot of sun. Visiting ancient ruins on my birthday was a perfect way to celebrate the day. We stopped in the small seaside town of Torre Canne for coffee, and could not believe the price–1 Euro, 20 for two of the best coffees of the trip.
Despite the strong headwinds along the coast, the ride along the sea was fabulous. The coast north of Torre Canne was dotted with seafood restaurants of all sizes and they too were busy getting ready for the big Easter week. The traffic along the coast was not bad, but then this is the middle of the week in March. Riding along this road in another month could be a completely different experience.
We stopped for lunch along the harbor in the cute small beach town of Savelletri. We picked up supplies at the local deli and then found a wonderful spot on the harbor to enjoy our treats.
From Savelletri, it was less than 10 km to the ruins of Egnazia, built in 15,000 BC by the ancient Greeks. I found it very difficult to comprehend the fact that I was looking at ruins that were as much as 17,000 years old. And the funny thing about it is that if these ruins were anywhere other than Italy they would be a really big deal. But in Italy, the ruins are just one in a very long list of ancient ruins.
Ruins are such a common thing here that you find agricultural fields and vineyards planted in and around the ruins. There is a terrific museum on the site which contains many of the artifacts that have been recovered from Egnazia. Excavation of the site is ongoing and looks like it will be for many, many years to come.
From Egnazia we continued north to our ultimate destination of Polignano a Mare, one of the most breathtaking cities on the sea in Southern Italy. As you might suspect from the pictures, Polignano a Mare also has Greek origins. It dominates the sea with steep rocky cliffs divided by a huge gorge. Like in all the surrounding areas, the limestone cliffs are filled with caves, many of which were occupied by prehistoric man. The town has an incredibly beautiful old town filled with historic churches and shaded quiet alleyways. We were told that the town is one of the most popular on the coast, one that is difficult to even find a room in during the spring and summer.
In the morning we would head back to Bari, return the bikes and then head for Rome for a short stay before returning home. While a much different cycling experience than France, Puglia was a perfect choice for my birthday bicycling adventure. The people we met, experiences we shared and the sights we visited have changed my life. It’s amazing to think that this trip could have easily been covered in a day by car. But by bike, we were treated to a trip of lifelong memories and friendships. I am looking forward to getting back to working on my first guidebook on cycling in France, but a big piece of my heart will remain in Puglia!